Associated Press Bias Leads to Negative View of Buddhism as a Religion: A Critical Commentary

Posted on October 23, 2013 by

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Current unrest in Myanmar has reached a peak between Buddhists and Muslims, resulting in violent outbreaks and mobs. A current news article published by Fox News speaks of the most recent outbreak, where a mob of 700 Buddhist rioters burned between 70 and 80 homes and where a 94-year-old Muslim woman was killed by stab wounds. Many Muslim families took to the forest to hide from the mobs out of fear of the deadly force of the mobs. This is only the latest outbreak in the ongoing struggle between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar which has resulted in hundreds of people being killed and over 140,000 people leaving their homes. The two main issues are between Buddhists believing that Muslims are trying to lead to the abolishment of Buddhism from the region and between Buddhists believing certain Muslim sects to be illegal immigrants to the country.

The first impression given off by this article is one of fear and turmoil. The title “Terrified Muslim families hide in western Myanmar after elderly woman killed by Buddhist mobs” (Fox News) screams hatred, violence, and negativity towards the subject to be discussed. Words such as “Kill,” “Riot,” and “Flee” are used in repetition throughout the story to further enhance negativity towards the Buddhist mobs and invoke pity towards the Muslims.  However this article speaks mostly positively towards the President Thein Sein. Although mentioning some of the negative views that rights groups are putting out, these are usually directed towards the government as a whole instead of directly at the President. This article also includes a positive quote about the President and a positive quote from the President. Positive phrases such as “peace and harmony,” “noble idea of freedom,” and “praised” (Fox News) are used by Thein Sein and in talking about the President in order to give a positive image of him. Other news sources such as USA Today pose critical views of the President with comments such as “[He] has also been criticized for failing to contain the unrest and protect the country’s embattled Muslim minority” (USA Today). The one common occurrence amongst all of the articles is the blame being put solely on the side of the Buddhists. Little is said about the true causes or for the whole catastrophe that is unfolding, however the wording causes one to view Buddhists in a negative way and to feel pity for the Muslims.

The common source amongst all of the news articles is the fact that most of them are variations on writings by the Associated Press. The Associated Press, however, is not without bias as it typically shows “bias favoring official US government positions” (Common Dreams). On such occasions, statistics are oftentimes over exaggerated with reports that have said more deaths than are actually factually true. In this case, the statistic about 70 to 80 homes being burned is only factually reported as 19 by the police. This idea paints a more negative picture towards the Buddhists as savage. The other bias that is persistent in this specific article is that of Fox News, which tends to have more conservative views. This article speaks more highly of President Thein Sein than most other sources that have different political biases do. This must also be taken with caution when looking over the facts of the article.

This article and many others like it are flawed in their examination of the role of religions in this context. Broad terms such as Buddhists and Muslims are used to define the two groups, while no actual attempt is made to denote which specific sects are involved. It is left broad and up to the imagination, while also drawing blame to the entire religion instead of to only one particular section of the religion. There is also little mention of what other factors are playing in to the violence that is occurring between the two faiths. The statistics are also used in ways that make it seem as if only the Muslims are fleeing, when in reality both Buddhists and Muslims are fleeing areas in the country. The Buddhist laity who participate in the riots are also simply a minority of extremists, as pointed out by the President, who seek to keep Buddhism as the primary faith in the country. However, even the supposed leader of the group has encouraged people to not participate in these vulgar acts and is instead trying to pass legislation that would cause social and economic separation between the Buddhist and Muslim populations in the country. This is causing a negative view of Buddhism in the United States because of a small sect in one of many Buddhist countries. Violence is being associated with the religion when it should be simply associated with those who partake in the violence.

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Associated Press. “Buddhist Mob Kills 94-year-old Woman.” USA Today. Gannett, n.d.

02 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

<http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/01/buddhist-mob-myanmar/2904245/&gt;.

 

Associated, Press. “Terrified Muslim Families Hide in Western Myanmar after Elderly Woman

Killed by Buddhist Mobs.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 02 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

<http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/10/02/terrified-muslim-families-hide-in-western-myanmar-after-elderly-woman-killed-by/&gt;.

 

Associated, Press. “Myanmar: Buddhists Kill Woman, 94.” The New York Times. N.p.,

02 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/world/asia/myanmar-buddhists-kill-woman-94.html?_r=2&&gt;.

 

Phillips, Peter. “News Bias in the Associated Press.” News Bias in the Associated Press. N.p.,

22 July 2006. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

<http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0722-21.htm&gt;.

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